Dear college seniors and job seekers,
I may be the new kid now but I was you once. No matter how good you have it today (when anything before 10:00 a.m. is “the crack of dawn” and you have more free time in one day than most working professionals get in one week) that time is coming to an end. In fact, there are now fewer than 100 days left to graduation at Marist College, of which I am a proud alumnus. If you’re paying attention to the calendar, you’re probably freaking out.
I know I was.
When my own senior countdown reached double digits, panic ensued; I had no job leads (but decent internship experience) and countless news reports and discouraging adults tell me it would be more likely Herman Cain would be elected president than me getting a job right out of school.
Well, the joke’s on them; I got hired.
Whether you’re or college senior reading this right now or you’re looking to break into any industry at any age, there are measures you can take today that will do all but guarantee you employment.
Here’s what I did.
Get Experience, At Any Cost
This one is a no-brainer. The benefits of collecting professional experience before entering the job market are multi-faceted; for one, it’s a necessary part of your resume now-a-days as you compete against millions of people just like you coming into the workforce. You need to stand out somehow, don’t you?
Second, the connections you will make at your internship will be invaluable. If you do a great job interning, you will either be hired by that company or they will help you get hired elsewhere and be the requisite work reference you will need later.
Professors told me these things. Former student-now-practitioners told me these things at networking events. Heck, my mom told me these things. At the time, I didn’t really want to listen to anyone. I was more concerned with enjoying what freedom I had left before graduation, and would sweat the other stuff at a later date.
For once, I’m glad I listened to my mom.
It was after my junior year and I still had zero experience to place on my resume. As several of my friends landed awesome jobs (some of whom were actually hired as a result of their great work), I could feel the pressure and guilt of having nothing lined up, or even any connections to fall back on.
Drastic measures had to be taken. So I devised a plan.
I spent a day driving to the eight nearest PR firms around my home with tailored cover letters for each company. I, walked into each office, asked to speak to the CEO, and handed them a manila envelope with my information. Days later, I received a call from Liz Grimes, whose name may sound familiar to those faithful blog readers out there. At the time, Liz was a PR Manager at Portfolio PR Group, who Overit acquired in January. I was brought in for an interview on a Thursday and then started the next Tuesday.
I landed the internship. Now, it was up to me to show them I what I was capable of.
Seeking an internship at Overit was easily the best professional decision I have ever made. I was able to acquire enough experience and was hired at Overit once my internship ended.
There are dozens of students I graduated with in May who have yet to find employment. If you want that paid position, you have to be proactive and form those connections for your future. Any experience, be it paid, unpaid or coffee fetching, will get your foot in the door.
Social media is incredibly malleable and empowering. We’ve seen people become celebrities using the tools correctly (see @ReallyVirtual), and we have seen the development of utter dunces and ruined reputations (see @repweiner). The power is yours to use it to your advantage or disadvantage.
You don’t have play a part of amateur journalism hero and achieve worldwide fame with your Twitter/LinkedIn/social accounts, but you better not be vulgar or offensive. Once, I heard a story of someone coming in on an interview who, “loved to tweet.” When the company looked up this person beforehand, the interviewer saw tweets of hospital visits due to alcohol poisoning (and bragging about it), a background image involving questionable behavior and much, much worse. The interview was over before it even started.
What’s great about social media is the immediate access to thousands (OK, millions) of people you’d never before even conceive of having the access to contact. You’re able to communicate with CEOs of billion dollar companies, top-tier journalists and your idols. A continued conversation with the right people will build relationships you’d never have access to before. It is these people who, if they like what you tweet and post enough, can and will hire you.
Now I sound like my mom. Perhaps Conan O’Brien says it better:
Whether you believe her or him, it is an undeniable truth that will push you farther up the ladder than your connections or your talent. All the expertise in the world cannot compensate for someone who so vociferously ignores rules and people’s feelings. They will have their karma properly align them one day. Plus, you never know when a burned relationship will ruin you in the future. The world is much smaller than you think.